As if being one of the only Taiwanese multimedia companies specialising in bilingual, feminine content wasn’t enough, multimedia startup Meimeiwawa Multimedia have their sights set on conquering the media industry by fostering the creation of a new film genre; what they refer to as Faux Reality.
The concept of faux reality is defined by Meimeiwawa Multimedia CEO Esther Veronin as “a genre of media that blends elements of documentary style footage (i.e. nonscripted) with fiction (i.e. scripted) footage to make one cohesive story”, and was first introduced in their ongoing internet series “Meiwa Diaries”. One of their most successful projects yet, the latter is filmed in a reality TV/documentary format and follows the exploits of Taiwanese-American sisters Lara and Esther as they go about their daytoday routinesbut not without a twist.
As a fan of the show myself, my first reaction was “is this for real?”. Seeing Esther having her smartphone taken away from her and Lara having breakfast hungover seemed quite plausible situations; yet something rang not quite right to me after seeing actor Benji on a date with Esther to cure her breakup blues.
Immensely intrigued and extremely addicted (I tune in every other Friday for a new Meiwa diaries episode), I’ve set out on a quest to find out from the Meimeiwawa creators themselves exactly how Faux Reality works, and why it has been such an appealing watch for audiences everywhere.
So here comes the Meiwa creators’ answer to the milliondollar question: Is Meiwa Diaries real? To cofounder and singer Lara Veronin, there is certainly an element of truth to the show, and to the concept of faux reality.
“To be honest I think almost all of it is true in the sense that it COULD or DID happen. The only things that we alter are the timing and names. For example, I am often trying to get clearance for vacations and/or eating breakfast hungover, and Esther is often having relationship troubles. Some of the exchanges we’ve filmed are simply reconstructed from our past experiences into
an easier to follow storyline.”
But CEO Esther addresses the all-important decision to add in a faux component to the show as one that was highly considered, rather than an off-the-cuff idea. Starting by taking into account the core characteristics and requirements of the ‘reality show’ format, it seems that the Faux Reality genre blossomed naturally from there.
“The concept of a reality show begs a lot of considerations about sharing your life publicly: where do you draw the line in terms of privacy? Where do you draw the line between art and exhibitionism? How do you keep it authentic yet entertaining? Personally I don’t believe authenticity can be achieved adequately if you’re also aiming to entertainso from the beginning I had this idea to merge the two (reality and fiction) together. It’s an exaggeration of real characteristics and/or situations, but not so much so that they would be considered mockumentary.”
Furthermore, both girls share the technical considerations that led them to choose to root their
Meiwa Diaries show so resolutely in the Faux Reality genre.
Esther: “The aim of using faux reality is to create fictionalized versions of our personas for comedic effect, but not go so far into fiction so that it’s surreal. It is also somewhat put in place to conceal our real identities.”
Lara adds: “Faux reality is a more convenient way for us to share experiences without the pressure of having a camera follow us around ALL the time to capture the good (entertaining) stuff. By having a specific onandoff camera schedule, we ensure that we don’t go insane. Of course it also allows for even more succinct or clever (we hope) plot developments and the creative freedom to amp up our behaviour through caricatures of ourselves.”
And the returns from the show reflect the popularity of the newfound genre Meimeiwawa has created. Out of the 8 project categories they’ve produced content for in 2015, “Meiwa diaries” came out on top as the audience’s favourite project. Thus, it seems like they’ve unexpectedly hit the creative jackpot. But what exactly is it about Meiwa diaries which has made it so successful? I believe that it (in part) boils down to the tension audiences feel over this new, neverbeforeseen genre, keeping them coming back for more. CEO-cum-psychology expert Esther fills us in:
“As a viewer we build constructs in our minds when we view content; we are told from the beginning whether this is “fiction,” “nonfiction,” or “based on reality” (and thereby still fiction.) But when you blend two seemingly opposing constructs, it tends to make people uncomfortable when they try to figure out what is real? My view is: why should it matter? Why can’t the two exist in one piece of art?”
Some deep, existential questions being posed aside, Lara analyses the breakdown of ‘faux’ and
‘reality’ elements and suggests that there is much more than just an initial tension the new genre produces that retains audiences.
“I would think the reality part garners interest because of its “Entertainment: Exposed!” quality. And the “faux” allows us to go that extra mile in ridiculousness. I’ve always found humour to be especially appealing when it blends realistic elements of daily life with the unfortunate chance
catastrophe, as opposed to slapstick or something that is so overthetop that it rings hollow or disconnected.”
One last reason I believe is integral to the successful introduction of the faux reality concept and to “Meiwa Diaries” is the girls’ proficiency in bridging gaps and blending artistic elements. Lara attributes the overall success of the project to the fact that “it so completely embodies our spirit and ultimate goal of blending lifestyle with entertainment”. Aiming to create bilingualfriendly content while fusing lifestyle and entertainment, the sisters are no stranger to the art of fusion. Their ability to go so far as to create a new visual genre is unsurprising, given their passion for finding workable chemistries in everything. So now the question is, what will the sisters come up with next? The answer is as of now unknown to me, but I am confident that it will be creative, innovative and authentic-just like all their content they’ve already produced thus far.